Blue  Is Not A Christmas Color

The holidays are supposedly the brightest and most joyful time of the year. For some, nothing could be further from reality.  Many people suffer the Holiday Blues. There are a number of factors that contribute to this recognized malady. For a few, it is a warning shot for a developing depressive disorder. For most it is simply a seasonal mood disruption that is manageable.The contributing factors for holiday blues include reduced light during shortened winter days, significant losses during the previous year, e.g. divorce, death, lay off etc., disappointments stemming from family conflict, year-end guilty feelings realizing shortcomings of the this year’s performance, a predisposition to depressive moods.

If you are already being treated for depression, you may need to be extra vigilant for signs of worsening symptoms and be sure to keep up or even increase your therapy and self-care regimen (see below). If someone you love suffers from depression, be watchful for increased symptoms such as missing work, isolation, changes in appetite, changes in sleep patterns, and increased irritability. Encourage them to consult their doctor or therapist.

If the Holiday Blues is more seasonal and a familiar short term mood disturbance, then there are a few things you can do to maintain positive feelings and attitude.

1. Get adequate sleep. It is easy to get caught up in the rush for Christmas preparations and stay up too late.

2. Eat right. Ok I know it’s the holidays but heavy meals and sugar loaded highs and the inevitable crash can play havoc with your moods.

3. Exercise. A fast walk or other exercise that maintains a heart rate of over 120 bpm is not only good for your heart but can dramatically improve your mood. There are some good brain chemicals being stimulated through elevated heart rates.

4. Remain connected to your family and friends. Isolation is a powerful and subtle force that can inhibit good feelings.

5. Don’t try to do everything. Some things are simply not as important as they seem.

6. Avoid negative people. You may not be able to completely avoid the family members that are not on your A list but you might be able to limit your time by scheduling yourself to be there only “for a couple of hours” rather than staying the whole day. The guilt you feel for not staying may be better than the frazzled nerves if you do.

7. Listen to your self-talk. If you think negatively about yourself, you will probably feel more blue. Consciously monitor how you talk to yourself and think about issues. If you have made a mistake, refuse to call yourself names and say something instead like “Humans make mistakes. I am human so I am allowed a mistake.”

8. Intentionally do or read something every day that makes you smile.

9. Help someone else. If you get your mind off your own troubles and do something good for others you will almost always feel better.

10. Be thankful for something every hour. Set your watch to beep every hour and search for something of which you can be grateful for 2 minutes at a time.  That’s only twenty minutes of positive feelings every day.

There you have it, a short list of how to conquer the Holiday Blues. There may be other things that work for you. Be creative. Plan ahead and be grateful for incremental progress.

Have a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year … Really!